Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Another Winter

image belongs to BaxiaArt

white birds
flock from heavens
howling savage songs
piercing eyes
—still incredulous—
with their beaks like needles
sewing trees and squirrels
into stillness

black birds
rise from earth
to meet them
in mad whirlwinds
of war and play

heaven and earth are one
the same harsh stars
above and below

only inside
a light

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

It's Alive!!!!!!

I've been waiting to have a reason to say this for quite some time… LOL

So, yes, “Wanderings on Darker Shores” has been "alive" for a bit more than a week now on Amazon.com, but I was waiting for the LookInside feature to be active and also for other online stores, like Amazon.ca, to include it in their listings.

Faithful readers of this blog will recognize many of these stories and poems, but I’ve also included four stories that have never been published before. These are bigger stories and together they make up for about 42% of the pages in the book, or a bit more than 46% of the total word count.

It is somehow difficult for me to categorize them since it is a rather eclectic collection. I call them strange stories, or weird stories, if you prefer. There are some ghosts in there, even some zombies, some aliens. There is no gore. No “real” horror, unless by suggestion. There are hints. There are shadows.

Actually, the working title was “The Quiet Fantastic” but I changed it to “Wanderings on Darker Shores” not only as an homage to Edgar Allan Poe, but also because I see these stories as incursions into the darker realms that lurk beyond the thin veil of reality....

The fantastic (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantastic or even better http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantastique) is actually the genre that I think applies best to this book.

Anyway, here it is for now:

Thank you for spreading the word! :-) :-) :-)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lucky or Not?

I think that most stories worth telling are in fact stories about unlucky people. Of course, in the end everything might turn out just fine, with a happy ending, but the beginning has to be bad, hasn’t it?

Think about it.

A girl has loving parents who protect her and who care for her. She grows up surrounded by her loving family, goes to school, always has good friends, gets a great job, meets the right guy, and they live happily ever after. Lucky girl. End of story.

Very nice. Now, how about this?

A girl has loving parents but her mother dies and, unfortunately, her father marries a woman with two daughters of her own and then he has to go on a long trip, leaving the girl alone with the very mean stepmother and stepsisters. You know the rest of the story…

Some guy goes on a balloon ride, has a great time watching the landscape from the sky, then lands back nicely and is ready to show to his friends all the pictures he’s taken.

Another guy goes on a balloon ride but the ropes break and he’s up in the air on his own and before he knows it he’s blown away. After days of being a toy to the winds, he lands in an unknown land, full of wonder and dangers…

Maybe something like this…

An illustration by Edouard Riou for Jules Verne’s “Five Weeks in a Balloon”, 1863

When I was reading Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” – have you read it? – I was very intrigued by the concept of “the luck of Teela Brown.” Teela Brown was a young woman, with very “lucky” ancestors, six generations of winners of the Earth’s Birthright Lottery. She was recruited by Nessus, the Puppeteer, for a voyage to the Ringworld, in the hope that her luck will rub off the entire expedition bringing it success. I can only wonder, though, if her “luck” didn’t really end right there…

I’m thinking that even the meaning of “luck” could be interpreted in different ways. Is one lucky to live a sheltered, dull, “normal” life, or is one lucky to live an “interesting” life albeit with some serious heartache in it? I assume the answer depends on which side of the “fence” you consider yourself to be when you’re giving it. Of course, there’s always the combination of dull and unlucky…

Care to share your thoughts?

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


sometimes the “real” reality
seems almost within grasp
like a world of wonders
– or perhaps of horrors –
glimpsed just below the thin
layer of ice on a lake
so close
so close

makes you wonder

if only you could lie down
with your bare heart
and melt this ice
of the paradigm
would you have your
aha moment?
would you “know” at last?

(would you achieve more than
catching a cold?)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Coming Soon...

... to an on-line store near you...

 I simply love the cover! Steve Santiago has made it. Check out his art at illustrator Steve Santiago or on Facebook.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick or Trick

We gave him a good face, not too scary, not too funny. The mouth was a bit too big but it looked great with the light inside.

When we came back from our trick-or-treating, the pumpkin was still looking fierce, although the candle was almost extinguished and the top was almost cooked.

Before we went to bed, we took him back inside. We didn’t want the squirrels or the skunk to eat him.

“Where’s all the candy?” the oldest said the next day.

“I put it in the pumpkin,” the youngest cried. “The pumpkin ate it all!”

“No, you ate it all,” the oldest said.

They went on quarrelling.

The pumpkin sat on the kitchen floor and seemingly watched us all with his big eyes. Did he want to say something with his big mouth or was he grinning?

“I’m telling you, this is an evil pumpkin,” the youngest said. “I know, the squirrels! Put him outside and the squirrels will take care of him.”

So back he was next to the front door.

“What’s this pumpkin doing back inside?” I said in the evening.

“I didn’t bring him in,” the oldest said.

“I didn’t bring him in,” the youngest said.

Out with him again. Maybe the squirrels hadn’t been hungry the day before.

The next morning, who was grinning from the kitchen table?

The pumpkin.

“Mom,” the youngest said. “Maybe we should let him stay. I’m not cross with him anymore.”

So, he’s back in. Watching the room from a corner. Grinning. He’s just as orange and nice as he was on Halloween. So many months later. The cat doesn’t go near him. We make sure no candy goes next to him.

We confess, we’re a bit scared of him, but he’s ours, isn’t he? And if he keeps looking this good, we might not have to carve another for this Halloween.

Happy Halloween, everybody!!!


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Still Far Away

Death is still far away
let us indulge in
the little things
let us cocoon ourselves
in the permanence of tomorrows
as if we still had infinity
ahead of us
(maybe we do)
let us plan
thousands of
little futures
in preparation of
our glorious one
yes, that one,
the one that’s yet to come
the one that will come
Death is (still/maybe/not that) far away...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Taking the Plunge

After years of watching my friends from the blogs and from elsewhere courageously and tenaciously putting their work out for the world to read, I've decided to finally do it too.

So, I'm preparing a collection of tales - most of them have appeared on this blog but there are also a few new longer ones. I hope to have them published in October.

As you can see, I'm working with the printed book template.

I love my Kindle. It’s with me everywhere I go. It’s my treasure box. A treasure box that is starting to become chaotic. That is starting to resemble a little black hole.

I’m not patient enough to be super-organized. I have close to 400 books on the Kindle itself and probably at least 200 others in the ‘cloud’. However, I have many times more printed books. I know exactly what printed books I have and where they are, on which shelf, in which room. The Kindle ones not so much.

I know e-books are the future. Or at least a very big part of the future. For writers they are convenient. Easy to get them out. Better royalties. Maybe other advantages that I'm not aware of. For readers too they are convenient, especially these days when everything is about instant gratification. I want a book. Click and I have it. No need to wait for Amazon to send it or to go to the bookstore.

But then, what happens to all these e-books? How do they endure through time?

I'll prepare the Kindle version later but, for now, I would really like to give this book a chance to live on paper, at least for a little while.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Life and the Beach

A beach, I think, is a pretty good allegory for life. I find it especially true for the crowded beach of an all-inclusive resort.

Let me tell you why.

You come there for a week, ten days, or, if you’re lucky, two weeks. You lie in the sun, you bathe in the sea, you participate in the activities, you drink your mojitos and your daiquiris.

Sometimes, something mildly exciting happens. The people on the banana-boat got overturned again. Look at them, they can’t get back on. A photographer parades with a huge yellow snake or with a cute monkey. Not both of them at the same time. A man and a woman with beautiful athletic bodies, their skin ebony, wearing tribal attire, pose -he with women and she with men- perhaps for the same photographer.

Sometimes you might even get noticed. If you’re too fat, too skinny, too beautiful, too ugly, topless or wearing the loud neon-green bathing suit that doesn’t hide anything. Most of the time you observe the scene from underneath your umbrella. You might play a game or two of volleyball or take the salsa lessons given right there on the sand by an impossibly flexible guy from the animation team. You might build a sand castle. Others have certainly built nicer sand castles than yours, but you’re proud of yours anyway. You might even think it will last.

And then, it’s time to leave. You thought it was going to last forever but it’s really time to leave. And you’re gone.

Somebody might remember you for a while, for instance the people who occupied the umbrella next to yours, just because you were always there if nothing else. The same way you remember the teenager looking like Heckle (or Jeckle) the cartoon magpies, or the trail of Dolce & Gabbana “Light Blue” always following the woman whose face you’ve never actually seen, or the guy with the tiny boom box at his waist (the same guy with the neon bathing suit!) or the guy miraculously carrying five plastic cups of beer in each hand plus one in his mouth. But then those people leave too and there’s nobody there to have even seen you let alone known you. New people come to the beach, build their sand castles and then they leave, and so on.
The beach is always there. People come and go.

I guess that’s the beach. And that’s life.

So I suppose what I mean is that it’s nice to enjoy it while you’re there. Dance your dances, drink your drinks, and don’t worry too much about your sand castles.

This is me, drawn by my youngest daughter in sand.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bunny Time

Now it blinks here
Soft and fragrant
Daydreams in a bed of clover
Now it stretches
Into shadows
Onto crunchy forest floor
Then, Moon and clover
Brother bunny
You and me

 (to a sweet bunny on this longest day of 2014)

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Out of my Cave to Say Hi and... Seven Years

Well, hi guys!

I’m not dead (yet) but I’m sort of dead to the world... I reside exclusively in the world where my heart is... the story that unravels now for me and that I try to write down.

I’ve started occasionally to scribble some verse for the blog but stopped every time. That is because all (of my) poetry comes out sad, most (of my) thoughts that lend themselves to poetry are sad, and I don't want to be sad. I’ve had it with feeling at the bottom of a deep well (I do feel like that a lot of the time) and looking up at a patch of blue sky that seems infinitely far. So I am wary of all 'poetic' thoughts...

(This is an illustration from "The Green Ray" by Jules Verne, translated by M. de Hauteville, 1883)

I’ve also started writing a review or two or other thoughts on various subjects but never got to finishing them. (One thing I have to say though is this: Karen Marie Moning is brilliant and her series Fever is brilliant. If you haven’t read it, check it out. Need I say that it is brilliant?  Barrons and V'lane - enough said...  :-) )

However, I think of you often and I miss terribly the thoughtful exchanges with my blogging friends, the daily snippets of beauty and wisdom, or just the news of your whereabouts and of your endeavours. I apologize for not replying to all those kind enough to comment on my two most recent posts. But I’m not leaving this place and I hope to be truly back one day.

Amazingly, Chick with a Quill is seven years old today.

Bye, guys! See you soon! Be well!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


you gotta do
what you gotta do

you gotta
run with it
spin a tune to it
dance to it
bite it
cry for it
laugh at it
jive with it

you gotta do
what you gotta do

you gotta
live it

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good-bye 2013

I couldn't resist putting together some titles for one last spooky little 'poem.' Some of these books I've read this year, others I'm looking forward to reading in 2014.

The Vampire Tarot

forgotten songs
of  love and death -
(I am)
until I die
the isle of blood,
these broken stars
let the right one in

Now that 2013 is coming to an end, I'd like to thank all of my blogging friends for taking the time to visit this place and to share their thoughts on what they've seen here. Your presence is always, always, always very much appreciated!

May the New Year 2014 bring to you, and to everybody else, only good things, among them love and good health, and wishes come true to your heart's desire.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

hmmm, what is winter?

snow snow snow

funny things in the snow

 pensive in the snow

funny colors in the air

winter is nice

Merry Christmas, everybody!!! May your hearts and lives be filled with love and joy!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

First Snow in November

The Winter Queen is dancing
above the town
When she sways
and swirls
to the music
of angels
or of the spheres,
her ball gown
-regal as she is-
sheds pearls and diamonds
on her subjects
They make luxurious jackets
for trees and squirrels
and turn into hot kisses 
on my eyelids

 My backyard on this evening of November 27th, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Eye and the Mind

The picture below is one that I took this past summer in Cuba, in a washroom in the lobby of Iberostar Ensenachos. A housekeeper had arranged the words with tiny flowers, and she was standing there, not far from her creation, a discrete smile on her face. Perhaps she was simply proud of what she had done, or perhaps she was hoping that the women who used the washroom and admired her floral arrangement would have a dollar for her.

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” True, isn’t it?

This quote is frequently attributed to the French philosopher Henri Bergson but it belongs in fact to the Canadian writer Robertson Davies, from Tempest-Tost (Toronto: Clark, Irwin, 1951), p. 127.

I have no idea how this woman came by this quotation. Maybe a tourist had shared it with her. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it came from her directly. Despite the poverty of the Cubans, their education is rich. In Varadero, I have seen a woman reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” while selling trinkets to tourists in an outdoor market.

More than any place where I’ve been in Cuba, Cayo Ensenachos rouses a strange stir in my heart. It has a certain feel of decay, of lost glory, much like Cuba itself. Think of a colonial, white, luxurious palace that has been overcome by the jungle and by time… Think of wandering through deserted ballrooms and abandoned gardens, where the only water in the still water fountains comes from gushes of tropical rain… Think of a silence of the end of the world, and of the clickety-clack of crabs’ pincers, and of the surf like a haunting, distant murmur… Think of all the stories such a place might hold…

Since today is the date for Denise Covey’s blogfest, “Sharing,” I thought I’d share this with you. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Flying Dutchman Redivivus


What whisper summons me?
Is it the wind
in drying leaves?

Come to me…

Whispers of doom,
or hoot of owls
or howls of wolves?

I am coming, yes…
The whispers grow,
and whirl, and growl…
In their cold embrace,
I glide
on the dark shore,
in noctambulous walk.
The sea - a beast of tar -
sends rumbling surf,
torn veils
of phantom brides,
onto the sand.

Come to me…

From far, from near,
a song of death
and love
I am here…
I see the ghostly ship,
its masts, and spars, and sails
bleak statues of decay,
no living soul on it
yet full of empty souls.
My home,
to make of thee?
A stir in me…
Run, I could
still run away!
Too late,
the boat slides

My bride… Come…

ply the oars.
And at its bow
I see your eyes of fire
bear down on me
with sweet
Like in a dream,
I step into the waves.


I’m coming…
My robes are heavy
chains held by Okeanos.
Unearthly arms of fog
extend to help me.
How proud you are,
tall at the prow,
your gaze of embers
lights your
handsome face -
a beacon
in my night.

Come quicker… Hurry…

But what is this?
I falter,
my eyes still
in your hypnotic grasp.
Shouts, vile barks,
thunder of guns
awaken me, while
torches light the sand.
The sea’s aflame.
The spectral boat
is fading,
multitudes close in.
A step
and then another,
The sea embraces me.


I almost touch your hand.
Strong voices call my name,
voices alive,
not... dead…
My struggle’s vain
I’m dragged away
pulled from your ghostly grip
by warm, live arms of men.
I know, my darling,
all is lost,
until next time…
And, as I close my eyes
against the burning night,
carried afar,
your waning whisper echoes
on my face,

Next time…

This is my entry for Haunting October Blogfest. This poem has appeared on this blog exactly six years ago, as part of my first Halloween in the blogosphere... The painting of the ship belongs to Marco Hassman at Last Travel Art. Comments are, as always, most welcome. Happy Scares!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Treat Yourself for Halloween – Step into Charles Gramlich’s Harmland

... that is, if you dare...

From the menacing title, through the eerie cover, into the eclectic world of nine tales that take you from a grave in the swamplands to the undergrounds of the Miskatonic University, this is a truly scary trip that stayed with me long after I finished it.

After all, I had the finest guide... through and through, he kept me on the edge of my seat, with his mix of unrelenting action, dark humor, and very creepy hauntings, while still allowing a few moments when I could simply admire his beautiful writing.

As always, “About the Stories” gives fascinating insight into the creation of the stories, just as interesting to read as the stories themselves.

And, Charles, really? Are almost all the details except the “toad” itself and what it turns out to be absolutely true? :-) Then, yes, we should be very afraid...

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Wish

I wish they were true
these things
I’ve been telling you
to soften your worries

that there are only the trees
whipping the roof
with their fleshless arms

only the wind’s fingers
strumming old shutters
to forlorn melodies

only aged floorboards
-nothing else, what else-
moaning slowly
under the bitter
October air

(not the house
not this house
coming to life)

(you are such a nice boy
-a luminous soul-
so trusting)

I wish you hadn’t lost
your way
in these woods
I wish you hadn’t seen
in my eyes
the shelter you were seeking
instead of
the nightmares

(and the wine
the sweet wine of abandon-
I wish you hadn’t been that thirsty)

if only I could tell you
to run away
as I am going out
-I left the door unlocked this time-
and you’re falling asleep
and the house gets ready
to feast

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lucifer’s Orphan by Roland Yeomans

Ah… October… Finally, the month to indulge in all things creepy. Deliciously creepy… The dark arrives early and seems more reluctant to depart, dead leaves rustle… or is it more than leaves? And what is the white vapour floating above the grass, at the edge of the woods? Morning fog or a breath of something from beyond?...

Yes! I love it!!! Can you tell? :-)

Well, this is a good time to head over to Writing in the Crosshairs, Roland Yeomans’s blog, who is holding his first blog fest this month, in celebration of Halloween and of his serial novel “Lucifer’s Orphan.”

I don’t even remember what I was searching for on the web when I discovered Roland’s blog. Once there, I saw the cover of “The Legend of Victor Standish” and I fell in love with the amazing art of Leonora Roy. The cover alone tells a fantastic story. As do the covers of all of Roland’s novels. (I really wish they were available in paperback too…) Then, I read the outrageous blurb of the book, read the first few pages of it, and was totally hooked… But, Victor Standish is for another post…

Now, I have just finished reading “Lucifer’s Orphan.” Let me tell you a little about it…

This is the story of an orphan who has known no solace in his short, sad life except for the Book that has once belonged to the mother he has never known and the hope in The Father watching over him. When he is adopted by a rich stranger and shipped to New Zealand, it appears that things get a turn for the worse, if that’s even possible, or are they?...

The narrator is Blake himself, the 13 year-old orphan. He is an old young soul with a distinct voice, a mixture of perpetual self-irony, compassion, and the encyclopaedic erudition of someone who’s had mostly books as friends (although his adverbs are mysteriously absent…) I found him instantly likable, felt for him for his tragic past, and rooted for him as he gradually discovered friendship, meaning, truth, and more challenges than one could imagine…

In a way, the monsters in the story are too farfetched to be truly scary on the immediate level, but they are indeed very frightening on a deeper level, the one we glimpse when we are forced to search inside our souls. For this is, I find, much more than a simple adventure/fantasy.

The prose is effervescent and with a care for detail that brings surprises literally on every page. The author’s choice of names, for instance, is particularly intriguing, from Assyrian to Lovecraftian references and beyond. In short, a delight to read. Also, and very importantly, not just once I found myself laughing aloud while reading. But perhaps humour is one of the best ways to diffuse darkness. And there is a lot of darkness in Blake’s life…

I highly recommend this volume and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next one.

Yes, so why not visit Writing in the Crosshairs and have a look for yourselves? Be a part of the Halloween blog fest

Monday, September 09, 2013

Scenes from My Garden While It Still Holds the Illusion of Summer

tiny bug, 
                lovely bug
don’t come too near 
I have to smile 
                        -make me smile! 
for you would drown in a tear 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Mirrors, Darkly

This story came to me at the end of June, exactly two days before I was about to leave on vacation. Even though I worked  hard -I really did- to the last minute, I couldn't finish it then. The beach and the sea had nothing to do with it so I only returned to it when I came back home.

At just over 2700 words, it is quite a bit longer than my initial plans. Hopefully, this will not scare you away from it. Comments are welcome, as always. Thank you for reading!

a card from the Celtic Tarot of Giacinto Gaudenzi

In Mirrors, Darkly

He comes to her in tarnished mirrors, her beloved, her lover, her never found one.

She carries him in her mirrors, carefully wrapped in the softest sheep hides and wool blankets, cradled at the bottom of a sturdy wooden trunk, underneath her good dress, her beautiful blue dress.

Three mirrors have broken over the years. Only two remain. She cares for them as she cares for her eyes.

The mirrors cannot be replaced. The magic lives only in them, the ones she has looked upon when she has first seen him. She has broken the first two herself, once when she tried to give him his freedom, one night when despair had been deeper than her love for him. But he doesn’t want freedom. He wants her.

At Johnsmas, when she was fifteen, she jumped through the bonfire with the other girls; later that night, her head resting on the pillow with seven different flowers underneath –the ones the old healer woman had given her- she dreamt of a young man with dark hair and bright eyes. A handsome stranger. In the dream, he smiled to her and gave her a blue ribbon. When she woke, the ribbon was underneath her pillow, among the faded blooms.

The whole summer, the whole autumn, the faintest sound of steps had her lift her eyes in hope and lower them again with a sigh every time. The old healer woman took her as an apprentice, taught her how to choose the healing herbs, how to dry them, how to use them. Two well-to-do men, neighbouring lairds, came and asked for her hand in marriage. She turned them down, much to her uncle’s dismay. ‘We needed their protection, not their spite,’ her uncle and sole guardian told her. But she didn’t care. She was waiting for him.

He never came.

At Hallowe’en, when she ran the third time around the stackyard, for a fleeting second somebody caught her in a hard embrace. She could only see a shadow in the dark, she could only feel a cold shape in the night, but she knew it was him, the lad from her dream. Inside, at midnight, her heart and hand trembling, she lit the candles in her room with mirrors. When the last flame sprung to life, he was in the mirror behind her.

“You are here,” she said, breathless, waiting to die.

His eyes brought no terrors, only love.

“Yes, blossom. I was waiting for you. Praying you would call me again.”

His voice was equally in her mind and in the mirror. He was there, at last, and not there. The handsome stranger from her dream.  His rich clothes were dirty, his white shirt was all bloodied.

“Are you hurt?” she asked, fearful.

He smiled to her like someone who’s been kept into darkness and was seeing the sun again. He pulled his shirt open to show his unscarred chest.

“Only my heart… My heart aches for you ever since I first saw you…”

“You’ve seen me?”

“In the dream, in midsummer… But you know about it… You’re wearing the ribbon I gave you…”

He reached out as if he wanted to touch her hair but his hand stopped on the mirror’s glass. She put her hand up to touch his, palm to palm, fingers to fingers.

“Who are you?’ she whispered. “Where are you?”

Those questions he didn’t know how to answer. He couldn’t remember the answer, no matter how hard he tried. All he knew was that she had saved him. Not why, not how, only that, that had she not summoned him at that moment he would have been lost, gone forever. She had saved him in her mirrors.

Now she is an old maid, she is twenty-five, and she is still looking for him. For the body from which his soul has wandered. They are looking together.

The other lasses, her friends, have all met and married the boys they had seen in their midsummer dreams. When she rejected a third suitor, her uncle disowned her.

Now she drives her little covered cart, pulled by Billy Boy, her little donkey. In the cart, she has everything, the mirrors, the herbs, the dress, her whole life.

She is a healer now, she brings solace to the wounded, to the sick. While her potions, and ointments and poultices do their good, she asks,  “Have you heard of a boy, of a young man who is perhaps sleeping, a boy who cannot awaken from his slumber?”

Nobody has heard. Nobody knows. People look at her with wariness, as if her strange questions could attract evil upon them, as if the herbs she has just used to save their brothers, their mothers, their children could poison them instead.

“Are you dead? Are you a spirit?” she keeps asking him.

“I don’t know...” he answers, and that is the truth. What he knows is that she is the one keeping him alive with her mirrors, with her love, that he would be lost forever without her.

“Do you remember something more?”

“Crows… I remember crows… Darkness… And then only you, my beloved, my beacon in the night, your candle showing me the way…”

“Are you here in the Highlands?”

“Aye, blossom. Must be the Highlands. Must’ve been a battlefield...”

“There are battlefields everywhere...” She sighs.

She wanders through villages, through hamlets, visits lonely brochs, seeking stories about wars.  About any unusual happenings. The clans fight each other all the time. Sometimes she walks among the dead and closes their eyes before the crows can eat them. Nobody harms her. Nothing harms her, not even her despair, her loneliness, her love for him.

One night it is Johnsmas again, and she stops on a hill. They have never reached this far north. This hill is quiet but the neighbouring hills are lit with bonfires, and the laird’s castle and the mote water are ablaze with the light from the flames. The summer sun still lingers in the sky, painting it in hues of pink and gold, and everything is so beautiful that her heart sings and weeps. She brings out the big mirror, props it against the cart to face the distant bonfires. She lights a candle. He comes to her.

For a while, they watch the lights getting brighter and the skies getting darker, they watch young ones dancing and long to dance too.  He is in the largest mirror, the one that holds him whole, and she leans onto it. It is as if she leans on his chest, as if she can rest her head on his shoulder.

“It is here, blossom,” he says at last, his voice like the breeze in her hair. “This is where I lie… Not in the ground. There, inside… I… know it.” She cannot tell if there is a thrill or if there’s sadness in his voice. “But it is the final night… You must hurry.”

She doesn’t know what he means but her soul cringes.

She puts on her best dress, the one she was saving for her wedding. She hides the smallest mirror – a mere handheld trinket- inside her skirts. He is in that mirror. She takes her most potent herbs with her. She runs.

“Please, can I see him?”  she asks the guards. “Your master?”

The guards exchange heavy looks but let her pass. She runs inside.

There are people in the austere hall, but they are not celebrating like the ones outside. They have sombre faces. She passes a woman with rich clothes whose gaze pierces her. She hurries to the big staircase that occupies the far wall.

“Who are you?” the woman calls after her. She hurries more.

“Halt!” the woman shouts.

A man stops her, his hand like a blacksmith’s vice on her arm.

“Who are you?” the woman asks again, circling her slowly, scrutinizing her face, her hair.

“I’m a doctor,” she says quietly. “Perhaps your master… or someone else here… is ill… I can help him…”

The woman shudders, wariness deepening on her handsome face with a tinge of fury.

“I know you…” the woman says slowly. The woman’s fine fingers touch her hair, pluck the blue ribbon from there.

She freezes.

More people arrive, among them an old woman and an old man for whom everybody give way.  They look noble and sad. They look inconsolable.
“I saw her that unholy night when he was brought home!” the young woman shrieks. “That Hallowmas when he should have died and didn’t! I glimpsed her in the mirror! It is she! She did this! She stole him from me!”

The old woman watches her with a warm curiosity.

“For ten years the worms haven’t eaten him, yet he is not alive,” the younger woman wails. “How can this be? It is her working! She’s a witch!”

“I can save him,” she says quietly.  If I can return his soul to his body then maybe he can be saved. “I am a doctor.” Her eyes are pleading. Her soul is trembling.

“Don’t let her touch him! Nobody can heal such wounds! Only a witch! Seize her!”

The old woman, the old man look at each other, look at her and she can see hope for their son in their eyes. 

The old woman speaks at last, with much frailty.

“You are exactly how he has described you, lass. When he spoke of you, he had the light of God on his face. Can you save him?”

These gentle words ignite more anger from the younger woman.

“No! He was betrothed to me!” Two big men can barely hold the woman. “He should have died ten years ago! We bury him tomorrow! He is dead! He is dead! Better dead than with her!”

And other ungodly words that she cannot hear because she covers her ears as, at a sign of the old woman,  she is led into a room upstairs and left alone.

She is not alone.

It is not a bedroom, it is arranged for a wake. The bed is not a bed, it is a catafalque.

He, her beloved, lies on it.

She tiptoes to his side, her breathing shy, as if not to disturb him.

Aye, it is he, her beautiful one. To see him like this, in flesh, after such a long time, turns her knees into honey. She wants to just lie down next to him and rest for a while.

There is no time. They want to bury him.

She takes the mirror out. Her heart cringes when she catches in the mirror the look of horror on his face at the sight of his own body. On his beautiful face, his eye sockets are gaping wounds.

He nods to her.

“I’ve seen you heal worse,” he says. “Do your magic, blossom.”

She smiles to him, but her heart is heavy.

“Soon, my love,” he says holding his hand for her to touch it as he always does. The mirror is so small, it barely shows his hand. She kisses it. Then she breaks the mirror.

She starts cleaning his empty eye sockets and humming the old song. She cannot help that her tears fall on the herbs and on the ointments and mix with them. She moves to the deep gash on his chest, the gash that hasn’t rotten for ten years, the gash that shows his still heart. While she sews him with the thread of herbs, her tears trickle down her lips where the old song is, and fall on his heart, and she sews her tears inside him. She never stops singing to him.

When she is finished, it is dawn again.

She leans in one more time and kisses his new eyelids. She puts her ear to his chest and listens. His heart’s beat is steady, quiet, but she knows that he is not in there yet; she has to return to her cart and break the last mirror. Free his spirit so it can return to his body.

She steals into the corridor, down the stairs. The hall is empty, apart from a sleeping guard. She hopes to go unnoticed, at least until she is far outside in the hills. The rustling of her skirts seems thunder, twin to her heart.

Behind her, she hears hurried steps, whispers, voices that grow with trepidation.  She doesn’t turn.

She is almost at the gate when she hears what she fears most.

“Stop! Stop the witch!”

She is seized and held. She kicks, she scratches, she pulls. They hold her, they hit her, they shove her to the ground. Pain explodes in her shoulder, in her head. A woman’s shoe pushes her painful cheek, turning her face upwards. She whimpers, stricken by the dark terror that now she won’t reach the last mirror anymore.

“Please,” she says. “Please… He will be fine now… He is yours… Please, I only need to-”

“No! He is dead. And you will burn next to his pyre, witch.”  The woman laughs, a gritty, wintry laugh. “So fitting, isn’t it? Take her!”

She is bound and dragged, her beautiful blue dress torn in rags and tatters on the stone floors. She wonders if he would hear her if she screams now. But they are inside and the last mirror is far on the hill. Where is the old woman, the one who has spoken to her so gently? The old man who had his hopes in her?

They’ve crossed the courtyard, she can see the grass, the hills. She still waits, hoping to get closer. And if he hears her? What can he do? How can he escape that accursed mirror that has been his salvation and his damnation?

The guards haul her in a cart, tie her with heavy chains.  More people gather. They only look at her with cold curiosity. The woman looks at her with hatred, making sure she sees the blue ribbon in her hair.

“Please…” she says.  “He will be well…”

She looks at the guards, trying to find a flicker of compassion in their eyes. She thinks she can see something.

“Please, save your young master…”

A man comes from inside, running.

“The Old Master has taken ill. He cannot bear the thought of saying goodbye to his son…”

Please, he doesn’t have to say goodbye… I can-”

“Proceed without him,” the woman says. “The sooner this ends, the better. And shut her up even if you cut her tongue. She will not need it anyway.”

That’s when she starts screaming, she screams his name, the name no one here knows because she chose it for him when he couldn’t remember his name, she screams, she bites their hands, and screams until they tie the gag and then she can only sob as they take her away because this is a bad goodbye, this is just an awful goodbye.

The stake is already there. They tie her.

The ties don’t have to be so tight but they are and they bite in her flesh. The guards don’t look in her eyes. She cannot speak but she tries speaking with her eyes. Nobody looks in her eyes, nobody except for the woman whose eyes are pure hatred, the woman who wears the ribbon that belongs to her.

They pile more wood at her feet while they wait. While she waits, she wills herself to die, before she can see the flames.

She barely notices the new clamour.


There are shouts but they aren’t angry. She hears scattered cheers.

“Cease your crimes!”

Is she dreaming this voice? Is she dead already, in Heaven?

She looks up. It is he. He walks leaning just a little onto the old man and the old woman. Guards follow them, keeping the eager crowd at bay.

It is he.

Only the ropes keep her from falling. When the ropes are cut, it doesn’t matter for she’s in his arms.

“Blossom,” he says, and her knees turn into honey. He strokes her hair, he kisses her eyelids. He cannot stop. He won’t stop. “Blossom,” he says, laughing softly. “This Billy Boy… When I heard you, I urged him to start the cart, to knock down the mirror. He listened to me, for once…”